Nissan Micra XV test drive


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The baby supermini hatch from Nissan Motors India has been finally launched. It is known by various names across the world like March etc however in India it is christened the Nissan Micra. The earlier production version of the Nissan Micra elsewhere looked much like the Maruti 800 however for 2010, the shape has been given a more rounded profile. Nissan India realizes that Indian market has the potential to be exploited with its given set of opportunities and the first one would be the small car segment. So commercially speaking, Nissan India are right. The Nissan Micra has come at a right time when small cars are just flying off the shelf. Nissan’s global alliance with Renault has ensured that Nissan India has access to Renault’s Chennai facility for making the Nissan Micra. Nissan India’s other launches like the Nissan Teana and the Nissan X-trail are CBUs and hence they aren’t expected to be volume generators. The Nissan Micra fits into the slot perfectly.

Looks

There are 4 variants of the Nissan Micra in India. Those are the base XE, XE+, XL and XV. I as always got to test the top end Nissan Micra XV. Be it in any variant, the look of the car doesn’t change much from the outside. The Micra is as cute as any car can get. Infact, it is one of the cutest cars in India after the Fiat 500 and the much desirable Volkswagen Beetle. The car has a grille resembling that of a half eaten apple whereas the tear drop head lamps acctenuate the cute looks. The much revered striking Nissan logo is placed atop the sloping bonnet. The bonnet is a small unit and one which  guarantees to give one a good view from the steering wheel. It is a deliberate ploy to get all those first time drivers as well as women attracted to the Nissan show rooms.

Moving onto the side profile shows that the Nissan Micra, like the others in its class, looks undertired. Those 14 inchers make the car look smaller than it is. My test Nissan Micra XV had those good looking alloy wheels however the base versions are not so fortunate, making do with steel wheels and in some cases wheel covers. The Nissan Micra XV in India gets body colored door handles and speaking of door handles, you would miss the key slot. Yes, the Nissan Micra XV gets the keyless entry, a first in its segment.The car sits on 4 wheel placed at the 4 corners of the chassis. This gives it a planted feel and something which I would elaborate when I come to the ride and handling section.

The rear profile highlights a quadrilateral shaped glass area. There is also another segment first, a rear windscreen wiper. The boot lid has the hatch opener{not a keyless one though}.

Interiors

That the Nissan Micra XV looks good when viewed from outside is alright however therein lies the fact that you would be spending most of your time inside a car rather than admire it from outside. The rounded design elements are carried forward to the interiors as well where everything is round, save for the rear seats. Even the front seats are rounded. The AC vents are of the round type, the dashboard etc. You name it and it would round. Hell, there is no key fob as well as the Nissan Micra XV in India makes do with a button start and you guessed it right, it is a round one. The plastic pieces are of the soft types and you get inside door handles coated with chrome. The central console is clutter less.

The standard audio system sounds good with its 4 speakers. The seats are made neither of hard nor soft materials. They just seem to hit the right spot. They are made of some polyvinyl material. Been a Chemistry student myself, I could never understand how that makes a seat such good however the fact remains that it is one of the best in the business. There are lots of storage spaces and there is also a double glove box on the curved dash. The dash board is also a highly thought of feature since it has anti-glare properties. Every control and every button falls within easy reach of the driver. This is something which Bollywood starlet Ranbir Kapoor so aptly described in the advertisement for Nissan Micra and its tag line was live simple. The switches all work perfectly. Been a built to price car, some plastics do feel iffy.

The interiors are in a drab black but most of the cars in this segment have the same interiors. The gear shifter unit also looks like it is made of the best quality material. The rear seats are also quite contoured however for the base XE version, the seats are like a flat bench. Unfortunately the seats don’t fold and hence limit the usability of the boot. The boot space is quite usable and one of the best in the segment at 253 liters. There are no suspension mount intrusions and this makes loading the small boot easier.

Handling and ride quality

Based on the global V platform, the Nissan Micra XV has been built with durable yet light in weight materials. It has a kerb weight of 986 kilos and this makes it one of the lightest small cars in the market. To fix to the tight budget, localization of components is upto 80%. The Nissan Micra XV or for that matter any Nissan Micra has been softly sprung and this translates to a good ride quality. The small as well as bigger bumps are dispatched with a disdain. Now, the 4 wheels at 4 corners adage stands good as this leads to better ride quality and gives the Nissan Micra an edge in handling.

The Nissan Micra XV rides like a bigger car and handles like a small one. It is no Suzuki Swift beater however it can be safely said that after the Swift, the next best would be the Nissan. The steering wheel is tuned more for city use. I practically drove it with my finger tips.Once into the highway, the steering doesn’t weigh in nicely and was devoid of any feel. The car however felt very stable at speeds of upto 130 kmph. Its just that it has a slight problem in high speed directional changes. Reverse parking sensors and wide door mirrors help in making parking chores as easy as plucking a leaf from a small tree.

Engine,Performance and fuel efficiency

As of  now, the Nissan Micra XV is been offered only in one engine trim. However I recently heard that Nissan India dealers have been taking bookings for the diesel version which would be out by December 2010. The petrol engine is the 1.2 liter 3 pot motor cranking up 79 bhp @ 6000rpm and 104 Nm of torque @ 4000rpm. Unlike other 3 pot cylinder motors in its class, the Nissan Micra XV is a smooth unit right from idle until its redline. The gear box also feels like a hot knife going through a slab of butter. The gear ratios are also nicely spread out with the first two gears been placed lower for better pick up in the city and the rest three for effortless cruising and economy.

The Nissan Micra XV screams to its redline at 6200 rpm quite effortlessly. Even at this high engine speeds, it’s a silent unit. The accelerator pedal is also cable driven and hence gives more feel while maintaining a lead right foot. The car acclerated from 0-100 in about 13.6 seconds. Its top speed, I attained was158 kmph, quite good for a 3 cylinder motor.

The Nissan Micra XV’s peppy performance is reigned by all wheel disc brakes- again a segment first. The brakes are assisted by ABS, EBD and even Brake Assist. Since the car uses the globally acclaimed V platform, it can be assumed that the chassis is quite competent during crashes. It has been even given a 4 star rating in the Euro NCAP ratings. In India, you get active head restraints, 2 airbags, seat belt pretensioners and 3 point seat belts and all of this only on the XV variant.

Been a small car and one under 4 meters and with a 1.2 liter engine makes the Nissan Micra XV one of the most fuel efficient cars in its class. Our test car gave 14.07 kmpl in city usage where as highway duties saw the economy figures rise to 20.4 kmpl. This is a perfect example of performance with fuel efficiency to match for. This would be manna for the “average kya hain?” public as well.

Verdict

Nissan India are piggy-banking on the Nissan Micra to deliver the goods. The car is reasonably loaded for its class, it has good performance, the looks, is easy to drive and park, best in class fuel efficiency and is a novelty factor as well. What more can one ask for. Probably better quality lower down the mark as well as more standard features on the base variants.Nissan India are also improving their service dragnet by  introducing 3 service centers per month across the metro cities in India. This speaks volumes of their commitment to the Indian customers. Add that to the 5 years anti-corrosion warranty on the Micra, and you cannot go wrong with this car. The base variant{ Nissan Micra XE}starts from Rs.3.56 lakhs {ex-showroom Delhi} to the top end version{ Nissan Micra XV} going upto Rs.5.33 lakhs {ex-showroom Delhi}.

Nissan Micra XV specifications

Engine Type: 3-Cylinder In-line Petrol, DOHC 12-Valve
Displacement (cc): 1197
Bore & Stroke (mm): 78 x 83.6
Max Power (PS)/rpm: 79/6300
Max Torque Nm (kgm)/rpm: 104/4200
Compression Ratio: 9.6
Transmission Type: 5-speed manual
Steering Type: Electric Power Assisted, Rack & Pinion
Min.Turning radius (m): 4.32
Suspension (Front): MacPherson strut with stabiliser
Suspension (Rear): Torsion Beam
Brakes (Front): Ventilated Disc
Brakes (Rear): Solid disc
Tyre size: 165/70R14
Wheels dimensions: 14 x 5.5J alloys
Overall Length(mm): 3784
Overall width (mm): 1666
Overall height (mm): 1532
Wheelbase (mm): 2451
Fuel Tank Capacity (Litres): 43
Boot Capacity (Litres): 253
Kerb weight in kilos: 986
Seating Capacity (Persons): 5

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